“The whole value of solitude depends upon oneself; it may be a sanctuary or a prison, a haven of repose or a place of punishment, a heaven or a hell, as we ourselves make it.”
― John Lubbock, Peace and Happiness
My quote comes from a book I haven’t read and apparently nobody else has either if the lack of online comment or review is anything to go by! It struck me as a wise and apt quotation for the days we find ourselves living in right now. I think I need to find and read this book…
Most of what follows comes from my last newsletter sent a few weeks ago at the beginning of the lockdown, but reading back my opening paragraphs that focused on the practicalities and how we'd all cope with the restrictions – being alone, being bored – really doesn't feel appropriate at this point. By this point there have been so many deaths and we're all so fearful and worried that the idea of being stuck in doors and a bit bored, pales into insignificance.
Like everyone else, I'm trying to make sense of what's happening to us and feeling so grateful to the heroes working amongst it all. I'm trying not to let fear and worry take over and trying not to dwell on the things I'm powerless to influence. I’ve chosen to embrace this period of forced isolation and make and try all the things I can, within the confines of our little cottage and small garden with Mark and Badger the cat.
My first week of isolation saw me finally making a breakthrough on a couple of new designs that I’ve been working on for the longest time. New designs are always simmering away in the back of my mind as I do my day to day making and admin work, but I do sometimes struggle to make proper time to work on them. I used to allocate Fridays as my ‘play day’ for working on new things, but if I have commissioned work to do, play day takes a back seat.
My designing process doesn’t involve sketching – I find that a frustrating and unhelpful exercise. I do sketch diagrams of things once I’ve worked them out with my head and my hands, but until my hands can feel how something in my head works, I can’t bear to pick up a pencil – I wish I could, I'm sure it'd work much more smoothly! Most of my designs go through several virtual and actual prototypes and I’m often surprised how the final piece turns out, since it bears no resemblance to the early versions!
When you design and make pieces that already have a pretty nailed on standard form, like storage for knitting needles, the first hurdle is to get yourself past thinking in that accepted standard shape(s). Logic dictates that if something has a standard, it must work well, but that’s not always true. The classic needle roll is a great example of this to my mind – I made myself one for my 8" dpns but find it clunky and time consuming to use with all that tying and untying, rolling and unrolling. For that reason, these never made it into my shop!
Months ago, I was asked by Emma if I made storage for fixed circular needles. I didn’t, although it was something I’d considered before. I consider making lots of things but usually find that the ones I prioritise are things that I would use / want myself and I don’t have many fixed circulars, except mini sock ones. However, I had been thinking about getting some fixed circulars for cowl knitting and Emma introduced me to KnitPro’s Zing needles, which I’m now in love with!
The first case I made was pretty huge and more or less based on accepted formulas for this type of storage case and turned out to be perfect for storing all my mini circulars in their original packets!
This was way too big to be practical for most people, so I made a folding version of it next:
Emma kindly agreed to test drive this one for me and it worked somewhat for her, but the needles wouldn’t stay put in their pockets and sometimes stuck out of the side of the case.
Going back to the drawing board but sticking with that general folded design, I found myself over-engineering solutions and eventually deciding that the whole thing didn’t work and I needed to create something totally different.
Thinking about how I use my new lovely Zing cowl circulars, I decided that I really wanted a compact storage case for each needle and then a case for them all together. After working through several prototypes, I came up with this very simple purse design:
Inside, there’s room for 12 sets of 16” circulars, all cradled in their own secure and colour coded fabric cases that you can just remove and take in your project bag, as and when you want them. And look at those sparkles! The lining is made with Essex metallic in Onyx – yum!
Although this one will be fine for my own use, I do think that I’ll make the pattern half an inch wider so that the separate cases sit more tidily in their two ‘columns’ inside. The case is completely scalable for larger fixed circulars too, and I'm now working on how this would work in practical terms.
The second design I’ve finalised is my sock knitters’ case, which has been through a couple of iterations and was kindly test driven by Lin and Lauren. Based on feedback and on how I tend to use my own sock knitting needles and accoutrements, I’ve come up with this design:
The outer is very similar to my second design that Lauren tested, albeit in very different fabrics:
The inside is quite different though. The previous model just stored dpns
This new one has three main sections. When you open it, there is a felt page, which both protects the needles in the pockets underneath and provides a useful place for storing stitch markers on the move:
One side then stores your dpns:
These are my 6” Zing needles – so pretty and colourful against that super sparkly fabric! I can easily make it larger for 8” needles, but the shorter ones make more sense for socks, I think. The other side has 2 rows of pockets:
There’s one deep pocket that you can use for whatever you like and this has a press stud fastening too. The other row is split into 3 sections, which are the perfect size for mini circulars, if you use them.
Let's just have one close up of those pretty needles…
Although they aren’t falling out, I’m now thinking that press studs on the smaller pockets for the mini circulars might be a good idea to keep them 100% secure. If you don’t use mini circulars and would use those pockets for something else, the press studs wouldn’t get in your way, so maybe it’s a no brainer to add them?
As you can see from the photos, I messed up the position of the stud on the outside of the case a little, but should the closure be this slim shape, or would it be better to have something a little wider / chunkier, more like the ones I used in my earlier circular needles cases pictured above? I've had lots of great feedback on both these new pieces from my newsletter readers and some additional suggestions and ideas as well, which I'm so grateful for, but if you have any thoughts on reading this, please go ahead and leave a comment or send my a message.
It does feel good to have finalised these two designs! I'm now enjoying using the samples shown here in one of my all time favourite nani iro prints and Essex linens and have all kinds of ideas about other fabric combinations to make these with, which I'll be making up over the next few weeks.
Stay safe and well.